In August and September of 2014, ECORP conducted a study on southwestern pond turtles (Actinemys pallida) at Elizabeth Lake in Los Angeles County, California. ECORP teamed with United States Geological Survey (USGS) researcher Dr. Jeff Lovich to look at this unique population, which contains genetic material from both the southwestern pond turtle species and the northwestern pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) species. Conditions at the lake during the study were less than favorable, with water levels at their lowest point in more than 20 years and the salinity of the water similar to seawater. ECORP biologists noticed that captured turtles were very lethargic, and the majority were coated in a thick white crust that accounted for up to 20 percent of the weight of each turtle.
ECORP contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regarding the dire condition of the turtles at the lake and the possibility of relocating the turtle population. Following coordination with CDFW, the United States Forest Service (USFS), and several other researchers, ECORP was approved to rescue and relocate 33 turtles to the Behler Chelonian Center in Ojai, California. ECORP biologists transported the 33 turtles, with an escort of CDFW biologists, to Ojai where the turtles were examined and rehabilitated by a veterinary specialist. Once conditions improve, these turtles will be returned to Elizabeth Lake with the hopes that they will repopulate the lake to the robust levels that existed prior to the 2013 Powerhouse Fire and recent drought.
For more information about this project, contact Mari Quillman at (714) 648-0630.